Ottawa taxi driver worries legal Uber will make plate 'not worth anything'

Taxi driver Tony Abouhamad bought his taxi plate in 1999 for $80,000 and at its height he said it was worth $300,000. Now he says it is nearly worthless.

Driver Tony Abouhamad bought his plate for $80K in 1999, now says it is worth nothing

Taxi driver Tony Abouhamad is one of Ottawa's 667 single-plate owners worried about whether they will be compensated should Uber be legalized. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)
  An Ottawa cabbie worries his taxi plate will be worthless if city council adopts  a staff report legalizing Uber.

Taxi driver Tony Abouhamad scraped together savings combined with a loan in 1999 to purchase his taxi plate for $80,000.

But since Uber began siphoning off customers, Abouhamad says the value of his plate has nosedived from $300,000 to nearly nothing.

  "I thought this was safe — like real estate — and after 19 years they tell me it's not worth anything," said Abouhamad.

"I'm confused and I feel like whatever I worked in life, I lost everything… this is my pension and it's gone. I've lost my investment."

Cab drivers like Abouhamad will be among the 40 delegations scheduled to speak today at a special city committee discussing the report recommending app-based ride-hailing services like Uber be regulated.

644 single-plate owners in Ottawa

The city controls the number of taxi plates and over the years the value of those plates — which now number 1,188 — has climbed.

Abouhamad is one of 644 people who own just a single plate.

  He says Uber has impacted not only his investment but also his income, saying since Uber arrived in 2014 his income has been cut in half.

He says he is still paying a mortgage and says he and his wife — who also works — can no longer pay university tuition for two of his children.

It confuses him that it appears the city is pulling the rug out from under him after he's adhered to all of their regulations.

They have to be fair, Abouhamad says of city politicians.

He says if the city approves changes to the taxi bylaws that add companies like Uber, they should buy out cab drivers stuck with devalued plates.